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September 25, 2010

Environmental concerns in agriculture – a very old problem

Filed under: agriculture, common man, environment, gandhi, gandhian principles, global warming — Tags: — neosurya @ 17:21

I often used to think that the environment concerns in agriculture could not be very recent. Similar concerns should have been present earlier as well. After all, the human species has been cutting down trees and establishing itself as a mono cropper from sometime now. I used to wonder how early people would have reacted, especially the farmers in India.

I have been reading Ramchandra Guha’s “India After Gandhi” [Reviews: 1, 2]. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary India. Since we are talking about agriculture here, I will put a few relevant excerpts. Guha’s book contains the following discussion between a village lever worker (VLW) and a farmer (MS):

VLW: What do you think of the new seed?

MS: What can I think? If the Govt. thinks it is good, it must be good.

VLW: Do you think it is better than the local variety?

MS: Yes, It resits disease much better. It can stand frost and rain, and there is more demand for it in the market.

VLW: What about yield?

MS: I cannot say. Some people say it is more, others say it is not.

VLW: Some people say it is not as good in taste.

MS: They are right. It is not half as good. If the roti is served hot it is more or less the same, but if we keep it for an hour or so it gets tough as hide. No, it is not as good in taste. People say that we all get very weak if we eat this wheat.

VLW: What is your experience?

MS: Many more people suffer from digestive disorders these days. Our childern have coughs and colds. Perhapes it is becasue of the new seed and sugar cane. It may be that the air has been spoilt by the wars.

VLW: And what about the new fertilizer?

MS: They increase the yield; there is no doubt about it. But they probably destroy the vitality of the land and also of the grain.

There is another quote included by Guha, a letter by Gandhi’s disciple Mira Behn dated 1949:

The tragedy today is that educated and moneyed classes are altogether out of touch with the vital fundamentals of existence — our Mother Earth, and the animal and vegetable population which she sustains. This world of Nature’s planning is ruthlessly plundered, despoiled and disorganized by man whenever he gets the chance. By his science and machinery he may get huge returns for a time, but ultimately will come desolation. We have got to study Nature’s balance and develop our lives within her laws if we are to survive as a physically healthy and morally decent species.

The discussion between the VLW and villager was first published by S C Dube in 1958 [Links to book: 1, 2], and the letter above was written in 1949. One can imagine how far back people were thinking about the effects of chemical farming and the resultant socio-environmental issues.

For those who are new to environmental problems in agriculture, I had previously blogged about a few aspects: Bt Brinjal, Double standards in Organic food, One Straw Revolution.

India’s changing villages: human factors in community development

September 23, 2010

The Commonwealth dRain…

Filed under: common man, democracy, India, politics, social change — Tags: , — neosurya @ 09:56

A few days down the line, we would have headlines that say – India is largest Gold medal winner at the commonwealth games. Guess why??? None of the leading athletes from other countries would attend, that is why. Several top athletes have pulled out of the games – some citing health reasons, some security, and still others – “personal causes”. These are but euphemisms to hide the true cause: (i) Unscrupulous contractors have used this event as a money making mechanism. True, media may have blown some of the problems, but we have to admit that there is no guarantee of good construction. The main Stadium, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium had been constructed in 1982. Most of the costs have been toward renovation. Renovation can be expensive, but not Rs 70,000 crores. (ii) Delhi has become an unplanned mess, with the local populace considering the event not as something to be proud of, but as another Government activity that they have to bear. This event could have been held at a place like Bhopal, or Nagpur, or some other town that needed infrastructure. (iii) There is likely to be little audience for the event. Maybe the Govt. could bring in truck loads of people promising them biriyani and a packet of hoonch like they do for the elections. Some of these “common” people could even participate in a game or two – maybe high jump, to leave the stadia and run from the boredom. (iv) Organizing machinery that exudes absolutely no confidence to attendees [1].

Civil servants in charge of the event may be able to pull off a magic trick or two. But people of calibre, like top athletes rarely not put their trust in magic tricks. They trust planning and strategy. The only people adopting strategy seem to be contractors who have come up with methods to fleece tax payers. About Rs 70,000 seems to have been spent on the games [1, 2], while the original budget seems to have been for Rs 11,494 crores [1]. The games had been awarded seven years ago[1, 2]; there was no need to have delayed construction for so long. Even the smallest component could have been finished well in advance.

Like in a dark, paradoxical comedy, a saving grace could be that  Dilli has floods, and the Yamuna is a meter above the flood level. The Jawaharlal Nehru stadium is about 2 Kms from the Yamuna (View map here). It is also the stadium that would host the commonwealth games, if they happen that is. Officials behind the commonwealth games can now blame a likely sham on the Gods.

A list of athletes who pulled out: Australia: Stephanie Rice, Dani Samuels. Kenya: David Rudisha, Edwin Soi, Asbel Kiprop, Linet Masai. Jamaica: Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell. England: Andy Murray, Lisa Dobriskey [1, 2]. Some of these withdrawals are due to injuries.

September 8, 2010

Cycle Yatra.

I recently joined the Bangalore Bikers Club. And the very first post got me interested. The post spoke about the “Swapathgami Cycle Yatra“. A brief note about the yatra:

it is a week long cycle trip into rural
Rajasthan. What sets this trip apart from a general cycle trip is that
we do not carry any money, electronic gadgets or first aid medicines
with us. We stop at villages along the route and find work to earn our
board and lodge.

The following you tube video is from the yatra in 2006:

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